Petaluma Nationals supporters have day to play

By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SAN BERNARDINO — What to do on the Petaluma Nationals’ off-day today?

Several families were talking of visiting Disneyland, a fun but daunting proposition, it being the middle of a hot summer and the promise of lines sometimes longer than the freight trains that pass through here, headed up the Cajon Pass and points east.

One mother spoke of a more relaxing ambience.

“We’ve got friends in Topanga Canyon,” she said. “We’ll be in the shade, and the beach is just down the hill.”

Recorded music from the ’60s forward entertained the crowd of about 1,500 before the games. Johnny Cash, among other popular oldies artists, came to life and belted out “Ring of Fire” on the public address.

The fully staffed refreshment stands were providing hot dog combos and taco combos that could compete on the major-league level.

A king-sized customer expelled satisfaction as he finished a $4 hot dog and was heard awarding a grade of four on his five-belch scale.

Tents behind the outfield fences for sponsors and assorted honchos promised a respite from mid-to-high 80s temperatures.
Petaluma fans also caught a break. Most were able to hide from the sun in a shaded portion of the grandstand.

The shade was a result of a change in location. As the visiting team, Petaluma used the dugout on the first-base side of the diamond, near a covered overhang.

The Empire squad was the home team Thursday, when it came from behind in the bottom of the fifth inning to score an 11-9 victory over Hawaii.

Following the national anthem Saturday, James O’Hanlon of Petaluma and Danny Fernandez of the Tucson, Ariz., team stood in front of home plate and recited the Little League pledge. Two assistant coaches recited the parents pledge. The theme was good sportsmanship.

Signage was significant. At least 18 canvas advertisements adorned the outfield fences and beyond. A Stater Brothers 18-wheel big rig loomed beyond centerfield.

Little League managers and coaches come from all walks and have various and interesting day jobs.

Petaluma manager Eric Smith, a native of Grants Pass, Ore., teaches math at San Antonio High in Petaluma. Several others here also are teachers, but the field is not limited to education.

Resumes include UPS driver, commercial loan officer, union meat cutter, truck driver, financial consultant, Bureau of Reclamation employee, maintenance supervisor, lawyer, dentist, physician, banker and energy consultant.

Danny Marzo, who pitched a strong three innings as the starter for Petaluma against Arizona on Saturday, aspires to be an ESPN broadcaster.

“I want to call the play-by-play of the Little League World Series,” the 12-year-old said.

What about becoming a professional baseball player?

“Well, that, too,” Marzo said.